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Friday, August 29, 2008

Twins Best Organization in Baseball

Don't want to talk about another disappointing late inning defeat... so I won't. But for the Twins to reach my predicted road trip record of 8-6, they need to go 5-1 in their next 6 games. Yeah it was a bold prediction, but after taking the first 2 in Anaheim it was more than doable. Very frustrating.

Instead, I have a couple stories for you to check out. Dayn Perry of FoxSports.com writes that the Twins are the best organization in baseball. I usually don't like Dayn Perry and what he writes, but as a Twins fan this is worth a read.

Also, another Friday with a Little League Baseball story. In case you missed it, 9-year old pitcher Jericho Scott was banned from his league for throwing too hard!

The story is causing a bunch of uproar and debate on the internet. I want to hear your opinion? Should Scott be able to play? Should he move up a league? Or should he play a different position?

I say he should move into the Twins bullpen!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

10 Wins for the rotation

So the Twins are able to salvage at least one game from the lowly Mariners yesterday in Seattle. I feel generous even using the word salvage as the series can be described by nothing other than a disappointment. That being said, it's great to see a little bite and retaliation by the young Twins ballclub. This will be needed down the stretch and especially if the team makes the playoffs.

Thanks to Baltimore clubbing the White Sox the Twins sit just a game behind first place in the Central. With Chicago off today and the Twins starting a 4-game series, the Twins have an opportunity to pick up a 1/2 game this evening.

Tonight Nick Blackburn takes the hill looking for 10th win of the season. Blackburn is 9-8 this season and has actually pitched better than his records displays. He was a victim of poor run support early in the season and like every pitcher in the rotation has lost a few of his potential wins due to a bullpen blowup.

The thought of Blacky grabbing his 10th win made me think about this young rotation. If Blackburn can get number 10 he'll join Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and the departed Livan Hernandez as Twin starting pitchers with at least 10 victories this season. Scott Baker, who has arguably been the best starting pitcher this year, boasts a record of just 7-4 but also has been a victim of poor run support and bullpen blowups.

Baker still has enough time to grab 10 victories while Francisco Liriano will simply not have enough starts since being called up to claim 10 wins (but if you consider his domination in AAA the lefty currently has 14 victories in 2008). The unexpected success of the Twins this year makes me excited, but the thought of an entire rotation at or below the age of 26 and all with 10 wins makes me REALLY excited!

Make your voice heard and check out the starting pitchers poll on the right sidebar!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Missed Opportunities Hurting Twins

DY21 releases some steam over the Twins recent 4 game skid...

The Seattle Mariners are 49-82. I repeat the Seattle Mariners are 49-82. I can't help but shudder as a Twins fan when I read that stat because it exemplifies the opportunity the Twins are missing currently. Everyone knew the current 14 game road trip the Twins are playing wouldn't be easy, but for a potential playoff squad this may be the point in the season where we see if the young, fun Twins are mentally tough enough to buckle down and win big games. It started out golden with the Twins taking two games from the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Angles. From there it went downhill as the Twins dropped the next two games, both of which turned out to be winable.

I still was not worried about the two losses against the Angels, for a split with the best team in baseball isn't bad at all an now the Twins would surely bounce back against the lowly Mariners. But unfortunately for the Twins, Safeco Field seems to be a tougher place to play then a World Series Game 7 in Yankee Stadium. Earlier in August the Twins dropped 2 of 3 in Seattle and the worst part was they held leads in all 3 games. Then last night's game everything seemed to be going just fine. The Twins took a 2-1 lead after Delmon Young's big RBI single in the eighth inning. Newly acquired Eddie Guardado pitched as clean of an inning as possible, so that was left was the usual Joe Nathan shut down ninth. What could go wrong?

Well, a leadoff double and a very rare Nick Punto error forced the Twins to play extra baseball, and forced me as a Twins fan to say, "Here we go again." After Adrian Beltre's two run blast in the 11th the Twins once again blew a huge opportunity against one of the worst teams in the league and started digging a deeper hole in catching Chicago for the division.

Once again I believe this is the make or break part of the Twins schedule. The Twins still have 9 games left against the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Athletics on this road trip. To me anything less than 6 wins against these teams will be a dissappointment. I just don't know how many of these young inexperienced Twins will deal with the pressure if they start slumping against these lowly teams, while the White Sox keep winning. Once again, it's make or break time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Everyday Eddie Returns

In a surprise move today the Twins acquired veteran lefty and former Twin, Eddie Guardado, from the Texas Rangers. Guardado rejoins the team after a five year tour between Seattle, Cincinnatti, and Texas.

"Everyday Eddie," who was acquired for Single A pitcher Mark Hamburger, is having a solid rebound season after a couple of injury plauged years. The lefty is 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 55 appearances and will hopefully provide some stability and leadership to a shaky bullpen that has blown too many leads this past month. Guardado, 37, brings playoff experience and pressure pitching which have earned him 187 career saves, 116 of those with the Twins.

The move surprised me as it seems we were stuck with the guys we had in the bullpen for the remainder of the year. Guardado is certainly not the same pitcher as the 2002 and 2003 Minnesota Twins All-Star, but I think he could end up being a very key addition. He adds another option for Ron Gardenhire and will certainly never say no to taking the ball and entering the game in an important situation.

As I write this blog and watch the game, Guardado has just entered the game to pitch the 8th inning. Gardy never proclaimed Eddie has the setup man today but this is a clear sign of how the Twins hope things work in the final month of the season. Eddie pitched a 3-up, 3-down 8th and right now Joe Nathan is entering to pitch the 9th.

Even more surprising, to clear a roster spot for Guardado the Twins have designated Mike Lamb for assignment which means they have 10 days to trade the veteran 3B or he becomes a free agent. I'm not surprised that Gardy and the Twins no longer have interest in Lamb, but because he signed a 2-year $6.6 million deal this offseason I thought we were stuck with him as a bench player in 2009. Unless we are able to move Lamb, we will still owe him roughly $3.8 million but the move shows the Twins confidence in rookie Brian Buscher.

Hopefully Eddie can be the final piece of the Twins puzzle to take this team into the playoffs. It certainly will be fun to see the dynamic Guardado trot out to the mound in his same number 18 jersey. So today the Twins move a Hamburger and return an Everyday!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Video Friday

Rarely do the Twins get air time on ESPN but last night they seemed to be the topic of conversation. In case you missed it I'll post the videos so you can see what's the buzz about the Twins.

This first video discusses the big series this weekend impacting the AL Central. The White Sox start a 3-game set against the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays tonight. The Twins had a great victory taking game 1 of a 4-game set against the AL West leading LA Angels. Torii Hunter made a rare mistake in center field which ended up being the difference in the game. Hunter had nice things to say about his former team.

Here Tim Kurkjian tells us how the Twins are contending in the AL Central. He mentions closer Joe Nathan, don't look now.... but Nathan has an ERA under 1. The closer has allowed just 6 runs in 55 innings for an ERA of 0.98. WOW!

Also, if you love baseball and can appreciate a good story I would HIGHLY recommend reading this great ESPN article. It's about the 2001 Little League World Series and how two boys: the star, Danny Almonte, and the tiny boy, Matthew Cerda, lives have been changed ever since.

I'd really recommend the article, but if you're not a fan of reading (I guess you wouldn't be here) you can watch the short video below...

I love baseball!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On the road again

The Twins complete a very succesful nine game homestand with a 7-2 record including two victories from the reeling Yankees.
I left work for a couple hours and walked down to the Metrodome to watch Francisco Liriano pitch yesterday. The lefty struggled a bit to get efficient outs and very quickly worked his pitch count over 100 in the 5th inning. Despite it not being his cleanest outing since being recalled from AAA it's amazing to watch the transformation of Liriano.

Yeah yeah, experts say he's lost 3 mph off his fastball and his slider doesn't bite as hard as 2006, but this kid is a better pitcher; a smarter pitcher. In 2006 as a rookie phenom, Liriano relied soley on his "nasty stuff." Today he still has amazing stuff, but he annoys how to battle against batters, fight through not having his best control, and keep his emotions under control. It's hard to say you're glad Liriano got hurt and missed a year and a half (I certainly wish we could have had him) but I think he's a better pitcher because of it. Let's hope he'll be getting victories for the Twins for years! If we get into the playoffs, we'll need him to be our ace!

So now the Twins begin their mega 14-game road trip. This will truly be the test of the year. If we can return home from this still within striking distance of 1st place in the Central we will have a good shot at the playoffs. The hardest part of the trip starts right away with a 4-game series against Torii Hunter and the 1st place LA Angels. Then hopefully we will grab some wins with a 3-game series in Seattle and a 4-game series in Oakland. As the calendar turns to September and new callups will be brought up for reinforcements the Twins head north of the border for a 3-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays before heading home on Friday, September 5th.

BOLD Prediction: a 8-6 road trip returning home tied for 1st place with the White Sox.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Casilla on the comeback trail

Alexi Casilla will give his sore thumb a test tonight at Class A Beloit. The second baseman has been one of the nicest surprises this season solidfying the starting 2B role making great plays in the field and being a terrific table setter at the top of the order for Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Young. Casilla's breakout year consists of a .313 average with 39 RBIs and a .351 OBP.

Some may argue the Twins have been fine with all their middle infield depth, but in my opinion the loss of Casilla has hurt. This injury has allowed Nick Punto to play nearly everyday and even bat second in the order. With Casilla expected to rejoin the team on the 14-game roadtrip starting midweek Punto better be ready to fight for some playing time.

Getting Casilla back will hopefully provide a little boost as the Twins begin a grueling roadtrip. I believe Punto, Adam Everett, and Brendan Harris should be platooning at shortstop with Punto and Harris giving rookie Brian Buscher a break every few days at thirdbase. Now if we can just get Pat Neshek back to help our bullpen!!!

The Twins pulled off the sweep of the Mariners this weekend and now get to play another struggling AL West team. Tonight at the dome, Nick Blackburn faces off against Oakland's All-Star Justin Duscherer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Can't Wait

Despite being in the middle of a very exciting season for the Twins where a young club that was counted out by all experts is in the thick of a playoff race, I can't help but think about 2010.

I attended Wednesday's day game against the Yankees and was pleasantly surprised when they pulled off the 100 games sign until the new ballpark opens. We're now in double digits with 99 games remaining. Outdoor baseball is in sight!

To get more excited look no further than the Twins roster. Yeah we have our starts Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, and Cuddyer locked up through the opening of the new park, but also think about the Twins starting pitching. A solid core of young pitchers with lots of potential all under the age of 26. I've even heard some comparisons to the core of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz of the Braves from the early 90's. Who knows... but a core of Liriano, Baker, and Slowey looks pretty good right now with other good arms like Perkins and Blackburn.

If you're not excited take the virtual tour below... I can't wait!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twins playing waiver games

The Twins were reportedly playing the game of cat and mouse also known as the waiver wire this week. ESPN's Buster Olney had heard a report saying the Twins claimed Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez off revocable waivers from the Mariners. If this is true, the two clubs would have 48 hours to reach a deal.

The move would be great for the Twins considering Ibanez is a right handed bat hitting .292 with 19 homeruns and 82 RBIs. He would more than make up for the absence of Michael Cuddyer and be big presence in the middle of the Twins lineup; however, don't get too excited about the actual possibility of this deal. Waiver deals seldomly happen and Ibanez is playing well enough this year that he may classify as a Type A free agent. Which means if he leaves Seattle this offseason the Mariners would receive two draft picks as compensation. I'm not sure the Twins will be willing to pay the equivalent price of two picks.

Olney also reported the Twins may have put a waiver request on Seattle pitcher Jarrod Washburn. The move was believed to be a strategic act to block the division rival White Sox from making a deal for the pitcher.

We won't have to wait long to see if these moves happen or not, but it's interesting to see GM Bill Smith play the waiver game.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Twins take down the evil empire

The Twins showed some grit, some heart, and some fight this week taking two of three against the New York Yankees. Yeah, the Twins were playing at home and yeah, the Yanks are struggling right now, but... I'm still taking this series as a positive note.

Typically when the Twins play the Yankees they look like Little Leaguers playing against the pros, but in all three of these games (even the loss) the Twins were forced to come back from a deficit, grind out runs across the plate, and play tight ballgames.

Twins playoff teams of the past have had good records, play solid baseball, and seem to have the right makeup. However, when the playoff role around we have poor at bats, shaky starting pitching, and no clutch hitting. Let's hope this series could be a preview to early October!

I leave you with this incredibly random video. Can't believe I missed this, but happened a few weeks ago. Watch the bat in the upper left corner... incredible!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Injuries affecting playoff races

Glen Perkins had a huge game Monday throwing eight shutout innings against the Yankees. The win coupled with a White Sox loss to the hand of Boston's Josh Beckett, puts the Twins back into first place. The Twins are playing the Yankees at a perfect time right now as they are spiraling downward. We must take two of the three from the Bronx Bombers and a sweep would be wonderful. With Seattle coming to town this weekend a huge homestand could be helpful as the Twins prepare for their mega-roadtrip due to the looming Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

I was thinking about the playoff races yesterday and realizing how recent injuries are currently playing their role on many contending clubs:

In the American League...

The Twins have missed Alexi Casilla and just when they were ready to add their big right handed bat, Michael Cuddyer goes down with a freak injury.
The Yankees have been missing their starting pitching, but Joba Chamberlain is set to begin throwing this Friday.
The Rays have been hit the hardest as rookie phenom Evan Longoria just joined Carl Crawford on the DL with a broken wrist.

In the National League...

The Cardinals just got Rick Ankiel back on the field and then lost former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter after just his third start back from the DL.
The Phillies' Brad Lidge has been complaining of a sore shoulder which could be deadly for Philadelphia.
The Mets are already realizing the pain of an injured closer losing another late inning game with the absence of Billy Wagner.
The Diamondbacks put Orlando Hudson down for the season to join his fallen teammate Eric Brynes. However, the D-Backs did make noise yesterday in a surprise move acquiring Adam Dunn from the Cincinnati Reds. The move counters the Dodgers trade for Manny Ramirez and in my opinion makes Arizona the favorite in the NL West thanks to their pitching.

With only seven weeks left in the season, injuries can play a huge role in shaping the outlook of October baseball. Little time remains for key players to rehab and come back and contribute, but there is always September callups looking to make a name for themselves. Get ready folks, it's going to get interesting!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where for art thou Neshek?

Adam Evertt has been hurt for nearly the entire year, Alexi Casilla suffered an untimely finger injury but should be back in two weeks, Michael Cuddyer has been on and off the DL continually, but no injury has hurt the Twins this season more than the loss of setup man Pat Neshek.

In fact, I would argue the Twins would be in first place with roughly a four or five game lead on the Chicago White Sox if Pat Neshek was healthy today.

Need any proof simply look to yesterday's loss to Kansas City. Another example of a Twins starting pitcher having a great outing through the seventh inning. The Twins have a small lead but know if they can get into the 9th inning Joe Nathan will be there to shut the door. No big deal right??? Three short outs in the 8th inning and pick up the victory!

Manager Ron Gardenhire has given every pitcher in the bullpen the opportunity to collect those three outs. First it was Jesse Crain, then Matt Guerrier, sometimes Dennys Reyes, and all too often Brian Bass. The Twins cannot find anyone to bridge that cap from the starting pitching to Nathan in the 9th... and it's currently killing them.

We started the season thinking our bullpen would be our strength and our starting pitching would our weakness, but it seems the tables have turned. All the young starters continue to put up solid outings and more importantly are giving their team a chance to win. Only to see their W's fade into no-decisions as the bullpen blows the lead.

Maybe I'm just sitting here venting some of my frustrations right now and the bullpen situation isn't that big of a deal, but if October rolls around and the Twins miss the playoffs by five games or less, I will be wondering Where for art thou Neshek?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

For the first time since May 13 the Twins are in sole possession of first place!

As the calendar turns to August we've reached the time known in baseball as the dog days of summer. The weather is hot, the players are tired, and the long season becomes a grind. But the dog days are when the contenders truly separate themselves from the pack. Today on August 3rd, the Twins proved themselves to the rest of the baseball world that they too are contenders!

It seemed fitting that on the day the Twins took over first place with a victory over Cleveland their young phenom lefthander, Francisco Liriano, was on the mound to pick up the W. Liriano's last win came against the Indian's on July 23, of 2006. It has certainly been a long and winding road back to the majors for Liriano but today he reached his goal.

"He looked more like the old Liriano, like the one before," catcher Mike Redmond said. "It's only going to get better. He's only going to get stronger."

On this big day for Liriano and the Twins, the Chicago White Sox had a big day of their own. They had an ugly 12-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals that became even uglier as a bench clearing brawl lead to Ozzie Guillen and multiple players getting ejected. The Sox are just 3-9 in their last 12 games and maybe this will be the start of a downward slide.

Denard Span, who hit his second career homerun today, admitted to watching the scoreboard out in rightfield today, "I was watching [the scoreboard] -- from like the fifth inning. I saw it was 8-0, then all of a sudden 10-0, and I was like, 'Uh-oh!,' then 12-2," Span said. "I knew Kansas City was taking care of business, and it feels good. It feels good to finally say we're in first place, for at least a day. We can't sneak up on anybody anymore this year. Everybody knows we are for real this year."

Patience turly is a virtue.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Twins Complete Huge Late Deadline Deal

Well.... kinda, but the point is the Twins roster move today is the equivalent to a big deadline deal.

Yes of course there was no trade involving a Manny or a Junior, but the Twins FINALLY called up the "Franchise" Francisco Liriano today and released both pitcher Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe.

Liriano and his 10-2 record with a 3.28 ERA in AAA Rochester will join the rotation Sunday against Cleveland. Along with the move, AAA first baseman Randy Ruiz will join the big league club taking Monroe's role on the bench. Ruiz was batting .320 with 17 homeruns and 68 RBIs through 111 games in Rochester.

This move is a huge boost to the Twins. Not very often can a playoff contending club get rid of veterans in favor of a youth movement and still improve their team. Just like the past two years the Twins signed Hernandez and Monroe for a combined $8.5 million thinking they would be bargain veterans that provide leadership and experience. I'm sure these two players added their experience to the Twins clubhouse, but for Liriano and Ruiz the time is now.

I truly think Liriano could be the difference maker in determining the AL Central race. The White Sox may have made their move for Ken Griffey Jr. and I believe Griffey will be rejuvenated by playing for a playoff contending club and be a bigger addition then people believe, but Liriano can make a huge impact for the Twins. If Liriano continues to pitch like he has at AAA, he'll get to pitch the months of August and September that we never saw in amazing rookie year of 2006. The difference in 2008, Liriano is not the rookie phenomenon, but a potential staff ace returning from Tommy John surgery.

Reporters have criticized and will continue to ask why Liriano wasn't called up earlier; however, despite the poor performance of Hernandez the past two months, the decision to call up Liriano could not be rushed. Francisco now clearly has his confidence, his velocity, his command, and his motivation of being the difference maker in a tight playoff race.

The most exciting thing to me in this entire situation, not only do we have Liriano ready to dominate down the stretch but the Twins current 2008 rotation looks like the following: Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn, and Francisco Liriano.... all legitimate young pitchers under the age of 26. The future is bright for the Minnesota Twins!